Chris Meyer | Crain's

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Chris Meyer

Background:  

Magilla Loans offers a free search engine for loans that connects borrowers to FDIC-insured banks without requesting personal information. The company, based in Sacramento, has handled more than $4 billion in loans since its launch in September 2015.

The Mistake:

A number of years ago, when I was actively involved in the funeral industry, I came up with an idea for a business that I was sure would succeed: a “women serving women” version of a funeral home. The thought was that some women might feel more comfortable if their affairs were handled by another woman instead of a man.

It didn’t work. I tried it for a couple years, then had to admit that the effort was a failure. That was a hard thing to do, because we’re taught from an early age that we need to succeed in whatever we attempt. But there are times when you have to be willing to say that this wasn’t quite the great idea you thought it was, and move on to the next one.

There are times when you have to be willing to say that this wasn’t quite the great idea you thought it was.

The Lesson:

It’s not easy to tell people—especially family—that you’ve failed at something. People want to hear about your successes, not that your latest venture is history. You need to have the maturity to admit when something didn’t go as planned, and to have the foresight as you launch a business that it may not succeed in the way you hope. Don’t just go willy-nilly and fire a six-shooter into the sky—you never know where those bullets might land.

There’s also a need to actually step back and analyze why it failed. I call it data gathering: What did you do wrong or right? What would have this helped this succeed? Was it something you could have controlled or prevented? Go upward, downward, forward, backward; do what you have to as you try to ascertain the causes for the failure.

In the case of this venture, part of the failure stemmed from the fact that I was gradually being pulled further into another project, Magilla Loans. I began spending more time on that venture and didn’t put as much energy into the funeral service effort.

There was also its location. It was very much off the beaten path.

And maybe, it just wasn’t quite the right time for this type of program.

One thing I have done is put things aside and move on. The Magilla Loans app, which allows people to apply for loans with big-name lenders without asking for personal information such as a name, Social Security or phone number, has proven phenomenally successful. This is in spite of the fact that most people don’t even realize we’re here, tucked away on Fair Oaks Boulevard for more than two years. The loan app is a unique concept, and people are very satisfied with it. Our business operations have been entirely self-funded up to this point. But we didn’t know how things were going to turn out. We just had to believe it would, and not worry about failure.

Follow Magilla Loans on Twitter at @Magilla_Loans.

Pictured is Chris Meyer. | Photo courtesy of Magilla Loans.

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